Our Sunday School summer program began this morning. The theme is the hymn, “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” One of the children stated at one point, “All things aren’t always beautiful.”
I’ve been thinking about the comment, for children have a way of cutting to the truth. She was right. Not everything is beautiful. Cancer is not beautiful. Pain is not beautiful. Death is not beautiful. Losing loved ones is not beautiful. Whether we speak of outer or inner beauty, there is much in this world that is not beautiful.
But this student had something simpler in mind. She pointed to a drawing she had done months ago and was now posted on the wall. “That’s not beautiful,” she said. Relieved, I assured her I thought it was extremely beautiful because she had created it. She laughed.
But I continued to think about what she said. The hymn does clarify, stating that “All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.” It doesn’t actually say everything is bright and beautiful. It says that everything that is bright and beautiful was made by God.
Still, I thought, the implication is that creation is beautiful. But is it? Then I considered the great disobedience of Adam and Eve, the entrance of sin and death into our world. With this evil came the corruption of the good, the disfiguring of the beautiful. Man became mortal, subject to death because of his wrongdoing.
We are beautiful, but corrupt. We are bright beings tainted with darkness. Yet we long for the light. St. Paul says to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…” Evil prowls the world, but good – God – redeems and restores it. We know God wins in the end, but even so we want to know goodness and beauty on our journey in time, in this world as well as the next.
I sang the hymn with the children, and we twirled and moved our hands to dramatize the words. As I watched the children join in, I saw beauty. I saw minds and hearts transported into music, a kind of perfection, to dance within the melody of a joyful song. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord,” the Psalmist says. In so doing, we emerge from our corrupted selves to become our beautiful selves. We step closer to God.
Our beautiful selves are present in each of us, waiting to become bright, to throw off the layers of dust and ash our latest sins have covered them with. So we go to church and throw off those layers, clean out our hearts, souls and minds. We sing, we pray, we worship, we repent, and we receive Christ in the Eucharist, beauty incarnate. With this great liturgical action, we too become beauty incarnate.
This Third Sunday after Trinity I stepped into the bright and beautiful, the created order as it was meant to be. The glimpse was stunning.